Prison Ministry posted by John Sorensen on Sep 02, 2018
Have you ever heard of, or used, the word, “Recidivism”? Frankly, it’s a tough word to say, but it’s an important word. According to the National Institute of Justice, “Recidivism is one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice.”
It refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior during a three-year period following the prisoner’s release. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested. Within five years of release, its 76.6 percent.
The truth is that about 90% of the folks in prison will get out. They will come and live in our towns, our cities, our neighborhoods. These statistics we’re talking about tell us that the majority will commit new crimes.
Here’s the question: Is there anything that we can do to change this?
Well, there have been quite a few studies conducted on what changes that statistic. Common themes that you’ll find in virtually all these studies that offer any hope include things like:
- age: if the prisoner gets to be greater than 65 before they get out;
- or education: if they receive a high school or college education, or they are given a skill training, so that will help them to get a job when they’re released
- effective drug treatment
- the availability of long-term re-entry care
- And yes, if they become a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, these statistics will go down. Sadly, by only about 5 to 15 percent.
Down is good. But down more is better.
Some years ago, we began to conduct a prison ministry within Evangelism Explosion. God called our Director, the Rev. Art Hallett to this work, and gave him the vision to equip believers in prisons across America. I think Art is America’s evangelist to the incarcerated church. At this point, we’ve trained thousands of prisoners in how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in prison. And here’s the thing: The recidivism rate among those that we’ve trained has been shocking low: I mean less than 10%!
I’ve done quite a lot of thinking about why this is. I’m sure there is a myriad of reasons, but among them would be:
– Once an inmate begins to witness for Christ openly, that becomes their identity. Hypocrisy isn’t allowed within prisons. So this new identity is firmly rooted in the witnessing believer;
– Second, we often will go witness to their family as well, which gives the family a belief that maybe they’re different. They consider giving them another chance when they get out;
– And third, this training gives these Christians the foundation for their ministry within the church when they get out. Often churches are not very welcoming to those that have gotten out of prison, but having this key skill helps them to fit in and find a place in the ministry of the local church.
I love the daily devotional by Billy Graham called Hope for Each Day. There is one titled, “Beauty Out of Ashes,” based on Isaiah 61:1,3, “The Lord has anointed me … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.”
One of the Bible’s greatest truths is that our lives can be different. But it is only Christ that can bring hope to lives that have been turned into ashes by the assaults of Satan. And Jesus doesn’t merely restore us to what we once were; He gives us “a crown of beauty” — the beauty of forgiveness, and the beauty of hope and joy and peace.
This week, we’re going to focus on EE’s prison ministry through our radio feature, Share Life Today, our website and social media, and this discussion. Please join in and let me know what you’re thinking. Ask your church if they have a prison ministry, and do all you can to connect EE to those are active in it. If you don’t have one, see how we can help you get one started.
And together, by God’s grace, let’s change some lives permanently for the glory of God.
Have a great day in Christ.